301 research outputs found

    The answer to the crisis of democracy is not to abandon the ritual of voting on election day

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    Election day is a time when citizens, it could be said, come together to share in their democratic inheritance. Reforms – some old and some new – aimed at increasing electoral participation such as early, postal, and proxy voting, have undermined this, according to Graeme Orr

    A fetishised gift: the legal status of flags

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    Accounts of the relationship between flags and the law have focused on a narrow strain of contentions drawn from debates about political expression. This essay seeks to bridge the gap between cultural studiesʼ insight into nationalism and its symbolics, and the flagʼs legal status, to better understand the unique position occupied by national flags. Flag ʻwavingʼ has become more prevalent in many liberal democracies. In such societies, flags occupy not a religious role, but a quiet and quotidian place in what Billig terms ʻbanal nationalismʼ. As a cipher for the whole, a particular flagʼs design is relatively unimportant; what lends it power is a mix of the gravity bestowed by its official designation and the easy commodification lent by a flagʼs easy reproducibility and portability. Unlike other state symbols such as the currency, coat of arms and honorifics, the state does not seek to monopolise the flagʼs use, let alone define its meaning. An analysis of the laws in several countries governing flag designation, observance and ʻdesecrationʼ reveals that the law accords the flag distinct status yet only equivocal protection. While the state may crave its citizensʼ fealty, a flag is not a symbol of some distant governmentality. Rather, it is gifted to ʻthe peopleʼ and relies for its relevance on its organic proliferation. As both object and image, people attribute a power to the flag – a power they recognise over themselves and others with whom they share a body politic. A key source of this fetishisation is its official, legal designation. Though it embodies no particular values, a flag is valued, even fetishised, by flag-wavers and flag-burners alike

    The law of electoral democracy: theory and purpose

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    Constitutionalising the franchise and the status quo: the High Court on prisoner voting rights

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    In the wake of the High Court’s decision on prisoner enfranchisement, Graeme Orr describes the issue of prisoner disenfranchisement as a continuing ‘political football’ in this new pape

    Electoral Malapportionment: Partisanship, Rhetoric and Reform in the Shadow of the Agrarian Strongman

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    This article revisits the zonal malapportionment and ‘Johrymander’ endemic in Queensland’s electoral system before the Fitzgerald Inquiry and examines how reform was won. Fitzgerald spent little time justifying his intuition that an unfair electoral system eroded accountability, and devolved to the Electoral and Administrative Review Commission (EARC) the task of rewriting Queensland electoral law. It did so by adopting precepts well established in other Australian jurisdictions; the process was one of liberalising, but not groundbreaking, catch-up. The Queensland example is intriguing for the paradoxes it presented. Bjelke-Petersen’s electoral manipulations merged pretence with openness. The concept of zonal weighting was given historical and policy justifications and cloaked behind the work of putatively independent commissions, yet its inherent partisanship was a notorious fact. More curious still, the manipulations were unnecessary either as a means of maintaining the conservatives in office or as a legal subterfuge evading constitutional constraints. Rather, Bjelke-Petersen’s pointed rejection of democratic pluralism married with the projection of an image of leadership by right. Viewing Queensland’s zonal system in the larger perspective of manipulation of electoral maps, this article compares populist strongmen in South Australia (Playford) and Québec (Duplessis), who employed similar rhetoric to entrench themselves in power. Ultimately, as others had, Queensland’s government constructed a long-running but brittle form of agrarian chauvinism, in which the signalling of anti-democratic values inherent in the zonal system was an important rhetorical component. Bjelke-Petersen was proud to govern over, rather than through, democracy

    Regulation of Campaigning

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    Deliberative or Performative? Constitutional Reform and the Politics of Public Engagement in New Zealand

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    A key assumption that shapes debates over deliberative constitutionalism is the idea that ‘deliberation’ versus the wielding political power based upon partisan influence somehow represent different poles of the constitutional-deliberative coin. This dualism is problematic. While the term ‘deliberation’ means careful consideration and purposeful and dispassionate decision-making, its adjectival form ‘deliberate’ may also imply ‘calculated’, ‘premeditated’ and ‘controlled’. How democracies deliberate is arguably an empirical and political question rather than a theoretical or normative one. This paper sets out to explore these themes in the context of New Zealand, a country that has had three major constitutional deliberations since 2005. Framed by government as ‘national conversations’ on ‘the future of New Zealand’, these include two initiatives aimed at engaging the public’s views on constitutional reform and a recent consultation over proposals to change the national flag. What is striking about these popular constitutional initiatives, however, is the lack of public engagement or serious government interest. We argue that these ‘non-event’ deliberations highlight one of the key challenges for deliberative constitutionalism: how to prevent instrumentalism and performativity from overshadowing the substantive. In developing our argument we draw on anthropological fieldwork on the role of the Crown in New Zealand and the Commonwealth. As we aim to show, the New Zealand case study highlights yet another problem for deliberative constitutionalism in practice: the difficulties of creating a meaningful public consultation when the main terms of reference (‘Crown’ and ‘Constitution’) are so ambiguous, amorphous and poorly understood
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